Nostalgia is a powerful variable that can’t be measured and yet plays a very big role on how much we might enjoy a game. When it is a franchise that has remained dormant for 29 years, leaning too heavily on nostalgia might not be a good idea due to how different the audience might be. With Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX, developer Merge Games attempts to remake the original Sega Master System title with additional levels, boss fights and all new presentation.
With the press of a button you can alternate between the classic retro and the new cartoon style graphics. This modernized imagery is without a doubt the highlight of the release. Everything from the sprites, backgrounds and power ups look great with a wide range of colours, even though the palette is a little washed out. Unfortunately, even though it looks great, it seems to be a detriment to the gameplay.
The impression that I got was that the new graphics were that they were just wrapped around the retro ones without altering their hit boxes. This led to a lot of deaths where it didn’t appear that contact was actually made with an enemy. In fact, there were times like boss fights, where I had to use the retro graphics just to be able to make it through. Retro graphics are a nice option to have but in those situations, if felt like anything but an option.
This phenomenon even more so extended to the platforming, which managed to feel both stiff and floaty at the same time. Jumping for example felt rigid and lacking control when trying to change direction in mid air. That is, if you were allowed to since if you attempted to jump with your back against an obstacle, you just couldn’t turn around. The flipside being that when you landed it often felt slippery and you went into a pit, almost as if your avatars hit box wasn’t hitting the ground where you expected it to be.
It seems like all of the other aspects of the original are here as well for better or worse. The power ups are as you remember them like grabbing a ring to fire projectiles or a motorcycle to speed through a portion of the level you are on. That also means that you have to deal with one hit lives, enemies popping out of power up boxes and bosses that use the rock paper scissors mechanic. That last part being one of the more frustrating since you can play well and get to the end of a level, only to lose your last life on a game of chance.
Alex Kidd in Miracle World DX is an example of where sticking too closely to the nostalgia of a game hurt the experience. It possesses a level of difficulty that extended beyond hard to just plain cheap. There is an option to turn on infinite lives in the menu however know that it will disable trophies/achievements. There might be an audience for this game but as much as I love 2D platformers, I’m not it. When it all comes down to it I simply did not have fun playing it.